Collaborative Family Lawyer

"We are still friends but no longer love each other. We have four children and a business. We want to ensure that neither our children nor our business suffers from our divorce and the Collaborative route was the right choice for us to take."

Mr J

The Perils of a DIY Divorce

5th July 2015
There is an old story about the WWI General who said that he wanted all the divorce lawyers in the front line when the boys went “over the top” in the morning, and when one of the divorce lawyers present asked why he said, “Because when I shout “Charge!” I want people who know how to”.
There is little doubt that we, as lawyers, are an expensive commodity, and a “distress purchase”. 
However, a cautionary tale occurs when parties try to resolve matters on the cheap.
In a reported case in The Telegraph this week a doctor’s wife lost her £3.2 million home after an “on the cheap” divorce went wrong.   The doctor’s wife has had to downsize from her £3.2 million home to a Council flat and faces a life on benefits.   The couple had made their money buying and selling properties and the parties’ children attended fee-paying schools.
Now aged 59, the wife claimed that the solicitors who had dealt with the claim had been negligent.  
The couple had met in 1984, married in 1989, and had two children together.   The marriage broke down in 2006, but they continued to develop property together.
In the course of their commercial transactions a Commercial solicitor assisted them and encouraged them to take a commercial view and save money by settling their divorce by agreement.
The agreement was that she would pay her husband £500,000 and then would re-finance the properties to pay her husband another £1 million after the development was complete.
However, the court rejected the settlement and she was therefore unable to obtain finance to complete the work and faced with crippling repayments she lost everything.
Clearly in her bid to save divorce costs she was left with a modest overage payment of £112,000, compared to her husband who exited the marriage with £1.13 million.
The agreement was described by Mr Justice Charles as a “…recipe for disaster…”.
If both parties had been properly represented there is little doubt that the agreement would have been approved and the losses sustained by the wife avoided. 
Further, whilst there is no good way to separate, there is always a better way to separate and collaborative law embodies that better way of separating, and for a couple who were on speaking terms, and indeed developing property together post-separation, why wouldn’t they use a collaborative approach to find closure and to have the agreement they reached recorded as an approved order of the court, particularly by using the fast-track procedure for collaboratively approved orders, and avoid the nightmare this wife faces.
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